Did they get it right?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This week let’s talk about the Louisiana legislative session that just ended. The budget: $25 Billion. The hole that had to be filled/slashed: $1.6 Billion. The ideas on how to do it: priceless.

Anyone paying attention to the events that have transpired in Baton Rouge these past few months has been entertained by a variety of “solutions” to the state’s budget deficit. The ideas ranged from selling prisons to shutting down universities. Some were pushed by the governor and then pulled by the governor. Others were vetoed by the governor – the 4-cent cigarette tax renewal, for example – despite having pretty good support and an annual impact of over $50 million.

The headlines for 2011 were dominated by two proposals supported by the governor: selling state prisons and merging UNO and SUNO. I have my own opinions, mostly grounded on small government foundations, about each of these proposals. Nevertheless, the genius of proposing these two ideas, doomed from the start, as a way to divert attention and split allegiances was genius politics on the part of the governor and his team.

For the first three months, the debate raging in the Greater New Orleans region was about the idea of merging a historically black university, SUNO, with a another university, UNO. The idea, irrespective of fiscal benefits or streamlining potential, was dead on arrival as old wounds had salt poured in them as a marginalized racial minority saw a symbol of their community being sacrificed to fill a fiscal problem. The next three months were filled with talk of selling the state’s prisons to private firms. However, the financial benefits were questionable, hundreds of employees would lose their retirement, and the ability of the contractor to provide adequate security was questioned. In the end, both proposals failed and the session hummed along.

The budget wasn’t passed until the very end of the session, which isn’t abnormal, and funding was “found” to fill large holes and avoid painstaking political fights this year – election year. Were the fundamental problems in the state’s budget actually fixed or were they simply put off until next year? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, but the future of our state depends on the ability to afford vital programs and to continue investing in emerging markets with the state’s economic development MegaFund and supporting entrepreneurship with the Angel Investor Tax Rebate program. Let’s hope they got it right.

The last bite…

As many of you may know, I have a love and obsession for McDonald’s ice cream and defend it as the best in the world. SHOCK: I have found a true competitor at Besh Steakhouse in New Orleans. They served a homemade strawberry vanilla ice cream that tasted like it was just made in your backyard with grandma’s love. While I won’t allow myself to say it is better than McDonald’s, I will admit that it’s silky texture and bits of real strawberries were a phenomenal hit. I give Besh’s ice cream 4.9 (out of 5) crumbs!

Buddy Boe, a resident of Garyville, owns a public relations and program management company and is well known on the local political (and food) scenes. His column appears Wednesdays in L’Observateur.